Nearly one quarter of the US honeybee population died over the winter, according to an annual survey. Beekeepers report the losses remain higher than they consider sustainable, and the death rate could soon affect the country’s food supply.
“More than three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants rely on pollinators, such as bees, to reproduce, meaning pollinators help produce one out of every three bites of food Americans eat,” the US Department of Agriculture said in a statement about the survey. Bees’ pollinating role adds $15 billion to the value of U.S. crops, including apples, almonds, watermelons and beans, according to government reports.
The study, produced by a partnership between the USDA, the Apiary Inspectors of America and the Bee Informed Partnership, found that 23.2 percent of honeybee colonies died over the winter, which is higher than the “acceptable winter mortality rate” of 18.9 percent.